Henry Townsend

Henry Townsend, who was inspired by Roosevelt Sykes, Lonnie Johnson and other musicians, was a master musician and adept at both guitar and piano. Townsend was a key figure in the establishment of St. Louis as a blues center during the ’20s u0026 ’30s. Townsend arrived in St. Louis at the age of ten, just before the onset of ’20s. He had signed a Columbia record contract by the end of 1920, and was able to produce several sides of open tuning slide guitars for the label. He made similar recordings for Paramount two years later. Townsend started playing the piano at this time and learned the basics by listening to Roosevelt Sykes records. In a matter of years, Townsend was able perform with pianists such as Walter Davis and Henry Brown. Townsend was a well-known session musician in the 1930s. He performed with many of the most famous artists of that era. Bluebird had already recorded several songs by the time he was in his late 30s. These were his last recordings as a leader. Townsend recorded and performed as a session musician in the ’40s and 50s. However, he never released any solo records. He led a few sessions in 1960 but they weren’t well-known. Townsend was a fixture on American blues and folk festivals by the late ’60s. This led to his comeback. He played shows across America and recorded a few albums for Adelphi. He had moved from Adelphi Records to Nighthawk Records by the end of 1970. Townsend was an icon of the St. Louis blues in the early 1980s. He recorded albums for Wolf and Swingmaster, and played a few shows each year. Townsend was the subject of a documentary called That’s how I Do It that aired on public television in 1984. Townsend nearly retired in the late 1980s but continued to perform concerts until his death in 2006.

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